COVID-19 upended technology priorities. Where do businesses go from here?

The pandemic overhauled technology priorities for 2020, accelerating migration, freezing innovation and flattening previously forecast growth. It leaves businesses with little recourse, yet certain technologies are imperative.
Yujin Kim/CIO Dive

When the year started, every company had an IT roadmap. Consider it null and void.

"I'm sure most of them have thrown it out the window" because it means nothing now, Arun Chandrasekaran, distinguished research vice president at Gartner, told CIO Dive. The priority now is survival, establishing the right tools, processes and technologies to support the customer experience and keep business running.

The pandemic exposed the glaring gap between "fit" and "fragile" companies, a theme of Gartner's research last year. Fit organizations have centralized key digital and innovation roles. They also have a responsive technology funding model. The fragile? Not so much.

Fragile companies must embrace digital transformation in a fundamental way, said Chandrasekaran. It's the "need of the hour" — companies that fail to adapt or innovate could go out of business.

COVID-19 overhauled technology priorities for 2020, accelerating migration, freezing innovation and flattening previously forecast growth. It leaves businesses with little recourse yet certain technologies are imperative to maintaining and securing operations, from video conferencing to virtual desktop infrastructure.

Next steps require organizations undergo portfolio rationalization to eliminate shadow IT and reduce cost. The limited spend business leaders permit must support business outcomes and enhance the customer experience. Otherwise, it's waste and right now, businesses can't afford waste.

"'Digital is better' is certainly the lesson to be taken away," but some companies have suffered too much financial loss to learn that right now, John-David Lovelock, distinguished VP analyst, told CIO Dive.

Businesses that are not run well are not doing industry any favors or providing the opportunity for growth or financial stability, Lovelock said. They need to make room for the companies that can grow and move on.

That means saying goodbye to those "zombie companies" stuck in the cycle of debt, which can pay corporate overhead but lack resources to invest in growth.

Recovery is in sight. While a second wave of COVID-19 looms, businesses have eyes toward 2021, marking mere survival as an achievement this year. In January, Gartner projected IT spending would reach $3.9 trillion in 2020, but as the year continues, the research firm expects an 8% decline for a total of $3.4 trillion. Through it all, cloud stands out, projected to grow 19% this year.

COVID-19 wipes out global IT spending growth

Revised worldwide IT spending forecast for 2020, in U.S. dollars

Spending growth
Overall IT
Communications services
IT services
Enterprise software
Data center systems
Gartner (May 2020)

"We're starting to feel better, but not good," Lovelock said.

With companies revamping technology roadmaps, CIO Dive interviewed and consulted more than two dozen experts across the technology stack to understand revamped 2020 priorities. Here is CIO Dive's analysis of business priorities pre-pandemic, halfway through 2020 and a forecast of 2021 roadmaps.

Have insight on how COVID-19 reshaped your 2020 tech plans? Email us at [email protected]

The new business technology priorities of 2020

Cost control is no longer nice to have, it's a must.

The new cybersecurity priorities of 2020

The secure perimeter of offices disappeared. Companies had to scale or buy more technologies for a remote workforce.

The new cloud priorities of 2020

Cloud emerged as a key differentiator as the outlook for the year soured.

The new data priorities of 2020

Early adopters thrived, as technology let operations pivot quickly to the digital realm.

The new software priorities of 2020

A reckoning on how to quickly provide value to customers placed software budgets under scrutiny.

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